FP3: Verstappen narrowly edges Hamilton and Bottas in final practice session of season
Max Verstappen bolted to the top of FP3 under the blazing sun at Yas Marina on Saturday afternoon in Abu Dhabi - but the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were both under a tenth of a second behind the Red Bull driver.
With conditions bright and hot, there was very much a ‘calm before the storm’ atmosphere as the first 20 minutes were dotted with installation laps and nothing in the way of representative pace. For the last 20 minutes of the hour, conditions cooled, the action heated up and teams stormed out for their qualifying runs.
READ MORE: Mercedes change Bottas’ engine again in Abu Dhabi
The sun had almost retreated when Verstappen set his fastest lap of 1m36.566s with five minutes remaining to put himself top, just 0.074s faster than then-leader Hamilton. Incidentally, Hamilton’s fastest time in FP2 was a 1m 36.566s, in cooler conditions.
FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2019
Abu Dhabi 2019
Practice 3 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:36.566|
|2 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.074s|
|3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.089s|
|4 Alexander Albon ALB Red Bull Racing||+0.361s|
|5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.409s|
Mercedes’ Bottas, who was fastest on both of Friday’s practice sessions, was 0.089s off top spot in FP3. He will start at the back of the grid thanks to new Mercedes engine components, with a fight from 20th his job on Sunday.
Alex Albon finished fourth, 0.361s behind his team mate Verstappen – but ahead of both Ferraris who were the only drivers to use medium tyres on their qualifying simulations in this session. It was Sebastian Vettel who finished fifth, 0.035s ahead of team mate Charles Leclerc with the top six split by 0.444s.
READ MORE: Friday Pace Analysis – Abu Dhabi
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was ‘best of the rest’ in seventh, continuing his solid practice pace around Yas Marina while Daniel Ricciardo was a tenth slower for Renault in P8.
Rounding out the top 10 were Carlos Sainz in ninth and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, both of whom will be sparring for P6 in the championship on Sunday.
It was back to square one for Romain Grosjean, who ended Friday frustrated after a collision with Bottas that damaged his modified Haas – the only package, including a new floor and other aero modifications, which the team had brought to Abu Dhabi. He finished 11th in the session ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
In his last FP3 session of the foreseeable future, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg finished 17th while fellow leaver Robert Kubica was bottom of the standings, 3.293s off Verstappen’s leading pace.